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Crunch time for Freya
Southampton AC javelin ace Freya Jones has two major dates highlighted on her calendar for next month.
The most life-changing is July 30 when she will jet off to the United States to begin a five-year degree in sports journalism at the University of Georgia.
But the date that keeps nagging away at her is Tuesday, July 10 which marks the opening of the IAAF World Junior Athletics Championships in Barcelona.
But such are the high standards demanded by UK Athletics that she still hasn’t qualified for Cataluna – despite winning last weekend’s Bedford trials with a season’s best 52.73 metres.
Although the official World Junior entry standard is set at 49.00, the UKA selectors require an extra five metres.
It means that for Jones to qualify, she must spear the 54m mark for the first time ever at this weekend’s Aviva Olympic Trials & UK Championships in Birmingham.
If she doesn’t, it will be time for a major rethink by the 18-year-old, who sits fourth in the national senior rankings and top of the under-20s and set her personal best of 52.82m last year.
“I’ve been trying to get to the World Juniors for two years now. There’s been a big red circle round the date on the calendar,” she said.
“If I don’t go, I will still compete for Hampshire at the English Schools’ Championships, but I will probably take a step back from athletics, set myself a new programme and hopefully come back stronger.
“The aim for next year is the European Under-23s.”
Whatever Birmingham holds for Jones, her life is about to change significantly.
After eight months of planning, she has chosen to do sports journalism as a student athlete in Georgia where she will be taken under the wing of top American throws coach Don Babbitt.
“I’ll major in journalism, but one of the main reasons for going is to focus on athletics,” said Jones.
“Don Babbitt has coached the men’s American record-holder and I’m going to be in the mix of some massive international athletics over there.
“I’ve had a lot of valuable help here from my coach Bill Bushnell, the UKA event coach Esa Utriainen, and also Jo Jennings who’s been my UKA mentor for the last three years, but it’s time to move to a new environment.
“My dad’s really excited about America and has already said he’ll come over, but I know my mum’s really going to miss me. I’m so grateful for their support.”
With A-levels to focus on and America beckoning, Jones’s season will be much shorter this year.
“A-levels are not a necessity, but I’ve worked really hard for the last two years to get them,” she explained.
“A few of my friends have taken a year out to go into full-time athletics, but I feel education is important. It’s something to fall back on if I get an injury.”
But mixed with the sensible, down-to-earth side of Jones’s nature is a fiercely competitive streak that hates the thought of missing out on World Junior qualification.
“I’ve been quite talented from a young age and have never missed an international, so not being able to qualify for the World Juniors would be quite a shock,” she confessed.
“But I won’t be negative. I’ve already improved from 49 to 52 metres and hopefully I can make the jump to 54 or 55 and look at breaking Goldie Sayers’ UK Under-20 record of 55.40m.
“Goldie will be there on Sunday and it’s going to be an excellent competition with the best of British competing ahead of the Olympics.
“I’m feeling really confident about it.”
Isle of Wight discus thrower Nick Percy is already packing his bags for Barcelona, having improved on his previous personal best with all six throws at Bedford, winning with a qualifying distance of 59.53m.
Southampton AC’s Sean Adams from Sholing came third in the under-20 men’s 400 metres hurdles, clocking a personal best 53.57 seconds.